Coaster (commuter rail)

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COASTER logo.svg
A Coaster departing Oceanside in July 2011.
Service typeCommuter rail
LocaleSan Diego County, California, United States
First serviceFebruary 27, 1995
Current operator(s)Bombardier Transportation
Former operator(s)Amtrak (1995-2005)
TransitAmerica (2006-2015)
Ridership5,600 (ave. weekday, 2012)[1]
Annual ridership1.6 million (2012)[1]
WebsiteNCTD Coaster
StartOceanside Transit Center
EndSan Diego
Distance travelled41 mi (66 km)[1]
Average journey time1 hour 5 minutes[2]
Train number(s)630-699[3]
Line(s) usedSurf Line
Rolling stock7 locomotives
28 passenger cars in service[4]
5 locomotives on order
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed90 mph (140 km/h) (top)[5]
37.8 mph (61 km/h) (average)
Track owner(s)San Diego Association of Governments
Route map
Maintenance facility
Oceanside Transit Center
Sprinter San Diego.png Metrolink (California) Amtrak
Carlsbad Village
Carlsbad Poinsettia
Solana Beach
Zone 1
Zone 2
Sorrento Valley
Zone 2
Zone 3
Old Town San Diego
MTS Trolley icon.svg Amtrak
San Diego
MTS Trolley icon.svg Amtrak
Storage yard

Disabled access All stations are accessible

Coaster (stylized as COASTER) (reporting mark NCTC) is a commuter rail service that operates in the central and northern coastal regions of San Diego County, California, United States. The service is currently operated by Bombardier Transportation on contract with North County Transit District (NCTD). The service has eight stops and operates primarily during weekday peak periods, with additional weekend and holiday service.


The North San Diego County Transit Development Board was created in 1975 to consolidate and improve transit in northern San Diego County. Planning began for a San Diego–Oceanside commuter rail line, then called Coast Express Rail, in 1982.[6] Funding for right-of-way acquisition and construction costs came from TransNet, a 1987 measure that imposed a 0.5% sales tax on San Diego County residents for transportation projects.[6] The Board established the San Diego Northern Railway Corporation (SDNR) - a nonprofit operating subsidiary - in 1994.[6] SDNR purchased the 41 miles (66 km) of the Surf Line within San Diego County plus the 22-mile (35 km) Escondido Branch (later used for the SPRINTER) from the Santa Fe Railway that year.[citation needed]

COASTER service began on February 27, 1995.[6] NCTD originally contracted Amtrak to provide personnel for COASTER trains.[7] In July 2006, TransitAmerica Services took over the day-to-day operation of the commuter train, based on a five-year, $45 million contract with NCTD.[7][8] In 2016, Bombardier Transportation replaced TransitAmerica as COASTER's operator.[9] In December of 2018, NCTD achieved full implementation of positive train control along the entire COASTER route, making it one of only four railroads in the United States to achieve full implementation of this technology without needing an extension beyond 2018.[10]


San Diego County voters extended the TransNet sales tax through 2038, which includes funding for rail track upgrades. By the early 2010s, numerous improvements such as added double track and bridge replacements were in various stages of construction and design.[11] As part of the broader North Coast Corridor project, approximately $1 billion is planned to be spent on new segments of double track between San Diego and Orange County.[12]

A northward extension to Camp Pendleton was proposed in 2011[6][13] Limited-use stations at the San Diego Convention Center and the Del Mar Racetrack for use during major events have also been proposed.[14][15]


More than 20 COASTER trains run on weekdays,[16] with additional service on the weekends.[17] As of the April 3, 2017 schedule, COASTER also added Friday Night service with trains running until a quarter after midnight. More weekend services operate during summer months and when there are special events, such as home games for the San Diego Padres. As of March 23, 2020, all weekend trains and some weekday trains are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Coaster route map (with other commuter lines included). This does not show routes of the San Diego Trolley.
Zone Location Station[18] Connections
1 Oceanside Oceanside Transit Center Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner
North County Transit District: Sprinter
Metrolink: Orange County Line, Inland Empire-Orange County Line
NCTD Breeze: 101, 302, 303, 313, 318, 392, 395
Riverside Transit Agency: 202
Carlsbad Carlsbad Village NCTD Breeze: 101, 315, 325
Carlsbad Poinsettia NCTD Breeze: 444, 445
Encinitas Encinitas NCTD Breeze: 101, 304, 309
Solana Beach Solana Beach Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner
NCTD Breeze: 101
2 San Diego Sorrento Valley Metropolitan Transit System: 972, 973, 978, 979
3 Old Town Transit Center Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner
San Diego Trolley: Green Line
Metropolitan Transit System: 8, 9, 10, 28, 30, 35, 44, 83, 84, 88, 105, 150
Santa Fe Depot Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner
San Diego Trolley: Green Line, Blue Line (at America Plaza)
Metropolitan Transit System: 83, Rapid 215, Rapid 225, Rapid 235, Rapid Express 280, Rapid Express 290, 923, 992

Connecting rail and bus transit services[edit]

The COASTER connects fully with Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town Transit Center, and Santa Fe Depot in San Diego.

The COASTER also connects with the Metrolink rail system at Oceanside, providing connecting service to Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It connects to the San Diego Trolley (Green Line) and MTS buses at the Old Town Transit Center; it also connects to the San Diego Trolley (all lines) and MTS buses in the vicinity of the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego – including to the MTS Route 992 bus which offers direct service to Lindbergh Field from Downtown San Diego. Finally, the COASTER connects with BREEZE buses at all North San Diego County station stops (i.e. in Zone 1).

Fares and ticketing[edit]

The cost of COASTER tickets is based upon the number of zones traveled (see map). Fare collection is based on a proof-of-payment system: tickets must be purchased before boarding and are checked by roving fare inspectors. Monthly passes are available. All tickets and passes include transfer agreements with NCTD BREEZE buses and monthly passes include transfer with the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) buses and Trolleys. On January 20, 2011, the NCTD implemented a fare reduction – the fare reduction led to increased ridership on the COASTER and so was made a permanent fare reduction in September 2011. As of September 2019, regular one-way fares are as follows:[19]

  • Within one zone: $5
  • Within two zones: $5.75
  • Within three zones: $6.50

With proof of eligibility, senior citizens (ages 60 and over), people with disabilities, and Medicare cardholders receive a 50% discount on the above fares.

Riding the COASTER without a valid ticket may result in a penalty fare of up to $250. Riders cannot purchase tickets on board the train.

Compass cards[edit]

In September 2008, SANDAG introduced a new contactless "Compass Card", made possible by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc. The "Compass Card" allows passengers from MTS and NCTD to store regional transit passes and cash value on a rewritable RFID card. Customers can purchase passes and add cash value on the Internet or at any ticket vending machine. Prior to boarding a train, customers tap their Compass Cards on the ticket validator located on the train platform. The LED display on the validator then lights up with lights resembling that of a stoplight, and the LCD display shows text regarding the passenger's fare account.


The COASTER carried about 514,450 passengers during its first year of operation,[20] and ridership rose steadily in the years that followed. In 2012, COASTER ridership was approximately 1.6 million people, with an average number of 5,600 weekday boardings.[1]

Approximately 40% of weekday commuters detrain at Sorrento Valley.[citation needed]

Rolling stock[edit]

Builder Type Purchased Quantity Numbers Image
EMD (M-K rebuilds) F40PHM-2C 1994 5 2101–2105 Coaster F40PHM-2C 2104 at Solana Beach, CA.JPG
EMD F59PHI 2001 2 3001–3002 Coaster train San Diego 2013-06 (9411010614).jpg
Siemens Mobility SC-44 Charger 2018-2020 9 5001-5009
Bombardier BiLevel Coach 1994 8 2201–2208 Coaster train at Solana Beach station, February 2004.jpg
1997 6 2401–2406
2003 4 2501–2504
2020 8 (not yet in service)
BiLevel Cab Car 1994 8 2301–2308
2003 2 2309–2310
2020 3 (not yet in service)

In June 2018, the NCTD Board approved the purchase of five Siemens Charger locomotives to replace their existing five F40PHM-2C locomotives that were remanufactured by Morrison-Knudsen, with $10.5 million of the estimated $53.9 million cost earmarked from statewide gas tax and vehicle registration fees.[21] In June 2019, the North County Transit District Board approved the purchase of two additional Chargers for expansion purposes; they are due for delivery in late 2022.[22] In September 2020, the North County Transit District Board approved the purchase of the final two Chargers that are planned to replace the F59PHIs; they will be due for delivery in April 2023.[23][24] Deliveries of the initial five Charger locomotives took place in August–October 2020; they began revenue service on February 8, 2021.[25][26] The five F40PHM-2C locomotives retired at that time will be donated to the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum.[27]

In January 2020, NCTD and Bombardier began to overhaul the legacy Bombardier BiLevel equipment at a minimum rate of four cars per year; all cars are planned to be overhauled by 2026.[28] The coach overhaul improvements include upgraded door systems, installation of LED light fixtures, seat cushion replacements, installation of electrical charging outlets, and suspension maintenance improvements.[29] All overhauled coaches are being repainted into the new COASTER livery that matches the paint scheme delivered on the Charger locomotives.[30]

In July 2020, the North County Transit District Board approved the purchase of eleven new Bombardier BiLevel passenger cars (consisting of eight coaches and three crash-energy management cab-cars) that will be used to add two trainsets to regular service and support SANDAG expansion upon delivery in late 2022.[31] The base order also includes options for 27 additional cars, but such options have not currently been exercised.[32]

In August 2018, NCTD announced that they were seeking public opinions and input on a re-brand of the agency, and ran online polls for the public to vote on a new paint scheme and logo for COASTER equipment. The new new paint scheme was chosen in late 2019, and is currently being applied to the overhauled coaches and Charger locomotives, and will be applied to the upcoming new Bombardier BiLevel passenger cars scheduled for delivery in 2022.[32]


NCTD maintains two rail yards for the COASTER. The main maintenance and storage yard, located at Stuart Mesa on Camp Pendleton, is just north of the Oceanside station stop. This is where cars are stored for the night and trains are serviced. Tracks 25, 26 and 27 of the San Diego Trolley yard at 12th and Imperial in Centre City San Diego is used to store trains during the midday and for weekday train staging, and is shared with the San Diego Trolley and the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad. The latter isn't used as of the March 23, 2020 schedule.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "COASTER Fact Sheet" (PDF). North County Transit District. January 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 5, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  2. ^ "Coaster Schedule" (PDF). NCTD. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Coaster Schedule" (PDF). March 26, 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "COASTER Fact Sheet" (PDF). North County Transit District. January 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  5. ^ "Rail Safety Tips". North County Transit District. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e "NCTD: Past, Present and Future" (PDF). North County Transit District. January 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 25, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Coaster". Trains Magazine. June 30, 2006. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  8. ^ "Company picked to operate COASTER". San Diego Union-Tribune. December 2, 2005. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  9. ^ "Coaster to tackle service delays, interruptions". San Diego Union-Tribune. May 26, 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  10. ^ "PTC Fact Sheet" (PDF). NCTD. July 2, 2019.
  11. ^ Prey, Bill; Rekola, Brett (June 2011). Capacity Expansions of LOSSAN Corridor in San Diego (PDF). APTA Rail Conference. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) & North County Transit District. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  12. ^ "California launches $US 6bn North Coast Corridor project". International railway Journal. December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  13. ^ "Marines, NCTD eye Camp Pendleton Coaster stop". The San Diego Union-Tribune. November 11, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  14. ^ "LOSSAN Rail Line - LOSSAN Rail Corridor Improvements". Keep San Diego Moving (TransNet). Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  15. ^ St John, Alison (March 14, 2008). "SANDAG Board to Explore Viability of Del Mar Track Train Station". KPBS. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  16. ^ "COASTER - NCTD". North County Transit District. 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  17. ^ "COASTER Schedule Effective April 1 - October 7, 2013" (PDF). North County Transit District. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 1, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  18. ^ "COASTER Stations". North County Transit District. 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  19. ^ "Coaster Fares and Passes". North County Transit District. 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  20. ^ "Coaster 15th Anniversary Quick Facts" (PDF). North County Transit District. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  21. ^ "State Gas Tax Increase Gives $10.5 Million For New COASTER Trains". KPBS. January 30, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  22. ^ "NCTD COASTER Improvements Fact Sheet" (PDF). North County Transit District Document Access Center. North County Transit District. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  23. ^ "NCTD Board Agenda Packet 9/17/2020" (PDF). North County Transit District. September 17, 2020. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  24. ^ "North County Transportation District buys more Chargers, helping Siemens reach milestone". Trains Magazine. October 26, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  25. ^ "NCTD Board Agenda Packet 11/19/2020" (PDF). North County Transit District. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  26. ^ "NCTD Celebrates Service Roll Out for New COASTER Locomotive and Overhauled Passenger Cars" (Press release). North County Transit District. February 8, 2021.
  27. ^ "Donate". Pacific Southwest Railway Museum. Archived from the original on November 25, 2020.
  28. ^ "NCTD Key Priority Projects" (PDF). GONCTD. North County Transit District. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  29. ^ "NCTD COASTER Improvements Fact Sheet" (PDF). North County Transit District Document Access Center. North County Transit District. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  30. ^ "NCTD Board Agenda Packet 04/16/2020" (PDF). North County Transit District Document Access Center. North County Transit District. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  31. ^ Sklar, Debbie. "Bombardier Signs Contract with NCTD for the Supply of BiLevel Commuter Rail Cars". Times of San Diego. Times of San Diego LLC. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  32. ^ a b "NCTD to replace aging Coaster train fleet". San Diego Union-Tribune. July 22, 2020. Retrieved July 26, 2020.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata